Friday, June 2, 2023

MLB Preview: Tampa Bay Rays (29-) at Baltimore Orioles (22-13)


BEST OF THE BEST — In a matchup of the top two clubs in the American League standings, the Rays blanked the Orioles, 3-0, in Monday night’s series opener…RF Josh Lowe (1-for-4, HR, RBI, R) opened the scoring with his seventh homer of the season in the second frame before SS Wander Franco (2-for-3, RBI) tacked on a sacrifice fly in the seventh…1B Luke Raley (2-for-4, HR, RBI, 2R) added an insurance tally with a ninth-inning home run, setting the stage for RHP Jason Adam’s (1.0IP, H, 3SO) fourth save in his last five outings.

LHP Shane McClanahan (6.0IP, 4H, 0R, 4BB, 7SO) overcame four walks to toss 6.0 scoreless innings, becoming the first seven-game winner in the majors… McClanahan is one of three pitchers in Rays history to start a season 7-0 (also: Charlie Morton, 8-0 in 2019; Matt Moore, 8-0 in 2013).

The victory marked Tampa Bay’s first shutout win over Baltimore since 4/10/22 at Tropicana Field (8-0) and its first at Oriole Park since 5/3/19 (7-0)…the Rays have shut out the Orioles 26 times, more than any other opponent in franchise history, ahead of Toronto (24).

ELITE COMPANY — The Rays are one of five teams since 1901 to win 29 of their first 36 games, including the first since the 1984 Detroit Tigers (31-5)…only the 1984 Tigers and 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (30-6) have better 36-game starts since 1901…with a win tonight, they will join the 1984 Tigers (32-5), 1939 New York Yankees (30-7), 1928 Yankees (30-7) and 1902 Pirates (30-7) as the only clubs since 1901 to win 30 of their first 37 games.

PUTTING UP ZEROS — The Rays have recorded a major league-leading seven shutout wins this season, ahead of Chicago-NL and Toronto with five apiece…36 games marks the fastest Tampa Bay has reached seven shutouts in a season in club history, ahead of the 2008 Rays (56 games)…since 2020, Tampa Bay’s 34 shutout wins are tied with New York-AL and Chicago-AL for most in the American League.

ROTATIONAL DOMINATION — Tampa Bay starters have strung together a 12.2-inning scoreless streak over the last three games, holding opponents to a .163/.280/.186 (7-for43) clip while allowing only one extra-base hit (2B) during that stretch…opponents are batting just 3-for-31 (.097) against Rays starters with runners in scoring position during the streak…it marks the rotation’s fourth-longest scoreless inning streak of the season (longest: 23.1IP, 4/7-11).

THE BAY BOMBERS — The Rays have hit a major league-best 73 home runs, the second-most long balls through a club’s first 36 games in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 2000 St. Louis Cardinals (75HR)…Tampa Bay has out-homered opponents, 73-23 (+50)…its 23 homers allowed are the fewest in the majors, ahead of Seattle (24HR).

The Rays homered in each of their first 22 games, the longest streak to open a season in MLB history…marked the longest home run streak at any point in a single season since the 2019 Houston Astros (25G, 9/1-29, 2019)…Tampa Bay has gone deep in 33 of its 37 games overall in 2023.

Tampa Bay has an MLB-best 21 multi-homer games, ahead of Los Angeles-NL (17G) — its 19-2 (.905) mark when hitting 2+ homers is the third-best such record in the majors behind Pittsburgh (1.000, 13-0) and Atlanta (.929, 13-1)…last season, the Rays 34 multi-homer games were tied for fifth-fewest in the majors.

Tampa Bay’s 19 go-ahead home runs pace the AL, trailing only Los Angeles-NL (20HR) in all of MLB…54 of the Rays 73 total homers have been solo shots.

THERE’S NO “I” IN TEAM — The Rays have five players with 20+ RBI, tied with Texas for most in the majors…three qualified Tampa Bay hitters are batting .300 or better, tied with Toronto for the MLB lead (Randy Arozarena – .328, Yandy Díaz – .325, Wander Franco – .307)…eight Rays have hit 6+ homers, most in the majors, ahead of Atlanta (6 players)… Tampa Bay is also the only major league club with nine players who have recorded 10+ extra-base hits (2nd: LAD, 8 players).

LEADING THE PACK — The Rays pace the majors in runs scored (228) while surrendering the fewest runs (110)…Tampa Bay’s +118 run differential is the second-best mark through the first 36 games of a season in MLB history (since 1901), trailing only the 1902 Pittsburgh Pirates (+123)…the 1902 Pirates also hold the record through 36 games (+122).

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD — Twenty-six of the Rays 29 games during May are against clubs that have a .500 or better record…Tampa Bay is 11-3 (.786) against teams that currently have a .500 or better record, the best winning pct. in MLB, ahead of Texas (7-5, .583).

CONSISTENCY IS KEY — Randy Arozarena is riding a 19-game on-base streak dating back to 4/17, slashing .356/.429/.658 (26-for-73) with two doubles, one triple, 6 HR and 13 RBI in that span…it ties the longest on-base streak of his career (also 7/23-8/20, 2021)… no Ray has had a longer streak since Ji-Man Choi’s 20-game run from 5/28-6/22, 2022.

The 19-game streak is the third-longest active run in the majors behind HOU Yordan Alvarez (33G) and COL Jurickson Profar (20G).

Arozarena also has a nine-game hitting streak, batting .343 (12-for-35) in that span…marks the fourth-longest streak of his career, and his longest since 10/5/22- 4/10/23 (11G).

ROAD DOG — Josh Lowe has reached base safely in 16 consecutive road games dating back to 7/24/22, producing a .381/.435/.786 (16-for-42) clip with two doubles, 5 HR and 11 RBI in those games…the streak ties DET Akil Baddoo (9/23/22-pres.) for the second-longest active such streak in the majors, trailing only TOR Kevin Kiermaier (30G, 6/11/22-pres.)…no Rays hitter has a longer road on-base streak since Yandy Díaz (19G) from 7/27/22 – 9/13/22 (G1).

ON THE MOUND — Tampa Bay’s 2.93 ERA is the best mark in the majors, ahead of Chicago-NL (3.33)…this includes the best starter ERA (2.82) and the third-best bullpen ERA (3.04)…Rays pitchers pace the majors in opponents’ OPS (.616), opponents’ average (.209), hits per 9.0IP (6.92), HR per 9.0 IP (0.64), fewest pitches per IP (15.7) and WHIP (1.13).

IN THE BOX — Rays hitters lead MLB in OPS (.864), OBP (.346), SLG (.518), batting average (.275), extra-base hits (148), total bases (634) and home runs per game (2.03).

BATTLE FOR THE EAST — Tampa Bay and Baltimore meet for the second contest in a 13-game season series tonight at Oriole Park…the Rays have won six consecutive season series over the Orioles since 2017, the longest streak over Baltimore in club history… Tampa Bay is 69-37 (.651) against BAL since 2017, its most wins over any opponent in that stretch, ahead of Toronto (63).

Following a club-record 15-game winning streak over the Orioles from 7/20/21 – 4/10/22, the Rays are 8-9 in their last 17 games against Baltimore, including a 4-7 mark on the road in that span.

TONIGHT’S START — Zach Eflin makes his fourth start since returning from the injured list tonight at Baltimore…enters the start on a 10.0 scoreless inning streak…has a winning streak of five games dating back to 6/25/22, the second-longest streak of his career (6G, 6/5-7/3, 2018)…an Orlando, Fla. native, Eflin joined the Rays during the 2022-23 offseason after signing the largest free-agent contract in club history, a three-year, $40 million deal, surpassing Wilson Álavrez’s five-year, $35 million pact.

LAST TIME OUT — Earned the win on 5/4 vs. Pittsburgh after throwing 7.0 scoreless innings, allowing three hits with no walks and 10 strikeouts.

It marked the first start of Eflin’s career in which he struck out 10+ batters without issuing a walk…it marked his longest outing since 6/3/22 vs. Los Angeles-AL (8.0IP).


YESTERDAY’S NEWS: The Orioles fell to the Rays, 3-0, in yesterday’s series opener at Oriole Park…Were shut out for the second time this season (also 5/3 at KC)…Have dropped three games in a row for the first time this year.

OPENING STATEMENTS: Last night’s loss marked Baltimore’s first in a series opener this season…The O’s had begun the year 11-0 in series openers, and were the final team to lose a series opener in 2023…Per the Elias Sports Bureau, the streak of 11 consecutive series-opening victories to begin a season marked the longest in Orioles history and was tied for the third-longest such streak by any MLB team with the 1883 and 1890 Philadelphia Athletics, 1959 Cleveland Indians, and 1973 San Francisco Giants, trailing a streak of 19 straight series-opening wins by the 1907 Chicago Cubs and a 12-game streak by the 1919 New York Giants…It was tied for the longest streak at any point in a season in O’s history, done three times prior: August 30 to September 30, 1974; May 23 to June 20, 1978; and May 16 to June 18, 1980.

FEELS GOOD TO BE HOME: After wrapping up their longest road trip of the season, the Orioles began their longest homestand of the season last night with the first of three games against the Rays through tomorrow…The O’s have a scheduled off day on Thursday before taking on the Pirates for three games this weekend…They will then host the Angels for four games beginning Monday to conclude the 10-game, 11-day homestand.

WHAT’S TRENDING: The O’s have won 14 of their last 20 games, 16 of their last 23, and 18 of their last 26…The 22-13 overall record is the third-best in MLB to start the season (see box at right).

Last season, the Birds didn’t reach 22 wins until the 52nd game on June 1 (22- 30); they did not reach 23 wins until the 55th game on June 4 (23-32).

The Orioles are 70-50 since July 1, 2022, a 95-win pace; the .583 winning percentage during that time is the fourth-best in the AL and seventh-best in MLB, trailing the Dodgers (.691, 85-38), Braves (.675, 81-39), Astros (.615, 75- 47), Rays (.610, 75-48), Mariners (.588, 70-49), and Mets (.587, 71-50).

AGAINST THE RAYS: Baltimore and Tampa Bay meet for the first time this season with this week’s three-game set…The Orioles will travel to Tampa Bay for two games from June 20-21 and four games from July 20-23 before hosting the Rays for four games from September 14-17…The O’s went 9-10 against Tampa Bay last year, 7-3 at Oriole Park and 2-7 at Tropicana Field…The season series was not decided until the 19th and final game on August 14 in Tampa Bay.

ON THE ATTACK: Baltimore ranks fifth in the AL and seventh in MLB with 186 runs scored after finishing 10th in the AL and 20th in MLB with 674 runs in 2022…The Birds lead AL teams with 140 walks.

The Orioles rank first in the AL and tied for fourth in MLB with 4.00 pitches per plate appearance; the O’s have five players in the top 22 in the AL in pitches per plate appearance: Gunnar Henderson (6th, 4.28), Adley Rutschman (7th, 4.27), Anthony Santander (13th, 4.135), Adam Frazier (20th, 4.09), and Cedric Mullins (22nd, 4.07).

AY, TONE: Anthony Santander owns a season-long seven-game hitting streak since May 2; has slashed .433/.485/.833 (13-for-30) with three doubles, three home runs, seven runs scored, nine RBI, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch in that span…Recorded six straight multi-hit games from May 2-7, the longest such streak in MLB this season… He became the first O’s batter with six consecutive multi-hit performances since José Iglesias, who had seven in a row from August 15 to September 2, 2020…Since the start of last season, Santander is the eighth player in MLB with multiple hits in at least six consecutive games, and first since New York-NL’s Jeff McNeil did so in six in a row from September 27 to October 4 (G1), 2022.

Six of his last nine hits have gone for extra bases (3-2B, 3 HR).

Recorded multiple extra-base hits in back-to-back games from May 5-6 for the fourth time in his career, joining August 8-10, 2021; August 24-25, 2021; and September 26-27, 2022.

Became the fourth Orioles hitter with multiple extra-base hits in two straight games this season, joining Adam Frazier from March 30 to April 2, Austin Hays from April 10-11, and Ryan Mountcastle from April 30 to May 2.

Had his multi-XBH streak snapped Sunday and has yet to record multiple extra-base hits in three straight games; since 1954, the only Orioles to have done so are Orioles Legend and Hall of Famer Frank Robinson (4G, 9/19-22/66 & 3G, 7/19-21/66), Orioles Legend and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray (3G, 9/12- 14/80), Javy López (3G, 7/26-29/04), and Cedric Mullins (3G, 6/5-8/21).

ROSTER MOVES: Prior to tonight’s game, the Orioles recalled infielder/outfielder Ryan O’Hearn, left-handed pitcher Drew Rom, and infielder Terrin Vavra from Triple-A Norfolk…Rom will wear No. 67 and his first appearance will be his Major League debut…The Orioles also placed infielder Ramón Urías on the 10-day Injured List with a left hamstring strain, optioned left-handed pitcher Keegan Akin to Triple-A Norfolk after yesterday’s game, and designated catcher Luis Torrens for assignment…The Orioles’ 40-man roster currently has 39 players.

QUICK HITS: Slated to make his seventh start of the season, third at home, and first career start against the Rays tonight…Will also be his first career start against the AL East…Worked 5.0 shutout innings on April 23 vs. Detroit and April 29 at Detroit to become the youngest O’s pitcher (23-164) to toss 5.0-ormore scoreless innings in back-to-back games since Dave Ford (21-259) from September 2-14, 1978, and the youngest O’s starter to accomplish the feat since Jack Fisher (21-188) did so in three straight starts from August 29 to September 8, 1960…Made his MLB debut on April 5 at Texas, becoming the first Oriole to make his debut this season…Thirteen players (7 pitchers) made their debut for the O’s in 2022…Also became the first O’s pitcher to start his Major League debut since DL Hall on August 13, 2022, and the youngest O’s pitcher (23-140) to start his debut since Kevin Gausman (22-137) on May 23, 2013 at Toronto…Had his contract selected to the 40-man roster on November 15, 2022…Originally selected by the Orioles in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2018 First-Year Player Draft.

LAST TIME OUT: Did not factor into the decision in his first career start against the Royals on May 4…Allowed six runs on eight hits (3 HR), both career highs, with one walk and three strikeouts in a career-low 3.2 innings at Kauffman Stadium…Threw 77 pitches, 47 strikes.

PACKING A PUNCH: Rodriguez’s 37 strikeouts through his first six career starts are the most by an O’s hurler in his first six games in franchise history (since 1954)…Recorded a career-high nine punchouts on April 29 (G2) at Detroit, becoming the youngest O’s pitcher (23-164) to record nine-or-more strikeouts in a start since John Parrish (22-241) also fanned nine batters on July 24, 2000 vs. New York-AL…Entering today’s games, he ranks among rookie leaders (min. 28.0 IP) in K/9 (1st, 11.89), strikeouts (2nd, 37), and innings pitched (8th, 28.0).

HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS: Making his third career start at Oriole Park tonight…Has pitched to a 4.82 ERA (5 ER/9.1 IP) in his first two home starts… Worked 5.0 scoreless innings on five hits with three walks and six strikeouts in his last start at Oriole Park against the Tigers on April 23…Marked his first career scoreless start…Threw 92 pitches, 58 strikes.

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